Skin Type and Optimistic Bias in Relation to the Sun Protection and Suntanning Behaviors of Young Adults
The study examined the roles of general and personal beliefs and skin type in relation to suntanning and sun protection, by assessing various perceptions of risk of skin cancer both for the self and for the average person. A sample of 355 people aged 16 to 25 years was selected randomly from the telephone directory of a coastal provincial city. Highly structured interviews were conducted over the telephone. The findings were presented in relation to three research questions. First, skin type, classified as burn only, burn then tan, or tan without burning, influenced both general and personal beliefs. Compared to the tan-only group, the burn-only group perceived earlier age at onset, greater number of years of life lost, and greater severity of skin cancer, for both the average person and the self, and greater susceptibility to skin cancer for the average person. Second, differences were found between personally relevant and population-relevant beliefs on susceptibility to skin cancer, time of onset, and years of life lost due to skin cancer but not for perceptions of severity and curability. Finally, skin cancer beliefs were poor correlates of tanning and protecting behaviors. The factor explaining the greatest proportion of variance in both behaviors was skin type.
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